Published: January 31st 2008January 27th 2008
The Renoir is nearby.
I left my shirt in San Francisco. Not high on a hill, like Tony Bennett's heart, but hanging in the closet of my room at the Renoir Hotel on Market Street. I may call the management and ask if they can send it to me.
Sunday, January 20th, 2008
I arrive at O'Hare Airport almost three hours ahead of my 10:55 AM flight. Not only am I able to get on an earlier flight, but the flight is so under-booked that I'm able to pick my own seat! "Just sit anywhere you like," the cheerful boarding stewardess tells me as she waves me through.
After a more than 30 minute ride on BART from San Francisco International Airport to the Civic Center stop, I check into the Renoir Hotel on the corner of Market and McAllister. After slurping down a quick cup of coffee at a conveniently located Mr. Donut, I re-board BART for a short ride to the Mission District, where I order a San Francisco-style burrito at Taqueria La Cumbre on Valencia. In spite of what Calvin Trillin, and others, have written, I find my chicken burrito to be more than a little on the bland
Taqueria La Cumbre
Where's the excitement?
side. Where's the excitement, I wonder? Maybe I should have gotten it with chorizo, instead.
I walk to City Beer which is the only beer store I know of that also serves draft beer right in the store, and I immediatly approve of the concept. I find a seat at the miniscule bar and immediately am treated to a long, rambling monologue from the overly-friendly fellow sitting next to me who describes how he bought a Schwinn bicycle for his elderly father. After about twenty minutes of not being able to get a single word in to our "conversation", I politely excuse myself to shop for some beer. Fortunately, the display shelves are only about three feet away.
I catch a Golden Gate Transport bus on the corner of 7th & Market, and the driver assures me the bus is going all he way to the Golden Gate Bridge. I don't completely trust him and nervously consult my map as we proceed on a twisting and turning route through the streets of San Francisco. Finally, we drive through the woody Presidio, then through a tunnel, and emerge a few hundred feet from one of the bridge. Seeing the
Golden Gate Bridge
In the foreground is a statue of the man who designed the bridge whose name slips my mind.
Golden Gate Bridge up close for the first time, I immediately think of . . . "Vertigo." Didn't Kim Novak pretend to kill herself off this bridge? Along with what seems like about half the population of San Francisco, I walk the approximately 1.5 miles across the bridge to Marin County and back again, pausing every few yards to snap a photo of San Francisco, which now appears to be off in the distance. I pay an obligatory visit to the appropriately named "Golden Gate Gift Shop," unable to locate a T-shirt that says, "Someone I Love Visited San Francisco And All I Got Was This Stupid T-Shirt."
My first evening is spent on a Haight Street pub crawl. First stop: Alembic, a small restaurant with a high quality beer list, featuring beers from nearby Magnolia Brewing, as well as others. I order an Iron Springs Scotch Ale, which is served too cold; however, by the end of the glass, the beer and I had managed to warm up to each other. I stroll a few blocks "up" (or is it "down"?) Haight to Magnolia Brewing, itself, which is crowded without any seats left. Since their beer list doesn't
Golden Gate Bridge
Up close and personal
inspire me, I decide to opt for quality over quantity and leave, vowing to return the next night (I don't).
I find quality at nearby Toronado, a popular and noisy hangout. I order an Anchor's Old Foghorn Barleywine and strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to me after I help him wipe up the Chimay Triple that he spilled on the bar. We drunkenly discuss politics, beer, the Midwest and a host of other topics and, eventually, we place coasters over our beers to save our places and go out to the sidewalk so that my friend can smoke a cigarette laced with something stronger than tobacco.
I walk all the way back to my hotel, by way of the Hole In the Wall in SoMa (South of Market, which stands for "SoMa-ny derelicts, you can't believe it"), where I'm informed that Suzanne Pleshette has just died.
Monday, January 21st, 2008
I start my day with a ride on the Powell-Hyde cable car from Market Street to Fisherman's Wharf. The conductor doesn't seem to like me very much. "You stand over THERE!" he barks at me. Later, when I finally get a
View from Fisherman's Wharf
seat, he actually shoves me. "Make room for other people!" he shouts, even though no one wants to sit.
I purchase a cup of clam chowder at Fisherman's Wharf even though it's only 8:30 in the morning. Then, I walk to North Beach and spend the remainder of the morning hanging out in coffee shops and strolling through City Lights Bookstore, where I briefly consider actually buying a book (I didn't). Around noon I pop into Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe, across the street from Washington Square, for a focaccia bread sandwich. Delicious. Even though the guidebooks I've read all rave about Mario's, the place is practically empty. The only other customer is a man wearing a Snoopy T-shirt underneath a leather jacket with four different Peanuts characters on the back. A fan?
I make my way to the Ferry Building at the end of Market Street on the Embarcadero. At one time, it actually WAS a ferry terminal, now it's home to a lot of expensive gourmet food and gift shops. You know, the kind of places where you can buy a small box of chocolates for $20. I buy a chocolate bar made with jalapeno peppers,
I love the taste of clam chowder in the morning.
for $5, along with a jar of genuine wasabi and a bottle of beer brewed in Berkeley.
I walk out of the Ferry building and, on impulse, jump onto a trolley car heading up the Embarcadero and ride to an amazingly touristy part of Fisherman's Wharf. I've never seen so many tacky restaurants, souvenir shops and arcades, all designed to get lots of money out of tourists. They don't get a penny out of me, though, having already spent so many of them at the Ferry Building.
Somehow or other I make my way back over to Rogue Public House not far from Mario's back in North Beach. Not surprisingly, they feature Rogue Ales, as well as ales brewed at two breweries owned by Rogue, Issaquah and Eugene City. I order a Menage Frog Triple from Issaquah (9%), followed by a 4 beer sampler, consisting of a Frosty Frog and Dark Smoked Rye (both from Issaquah), a 200 Meter Dobblebock from Eugene City and an Imperial Porter from Rogue. Fully satisfied with myself and more than a little inebriated, I make my way back to my hotel for a short nap.
That evening, I attempt to visit
Peanuts fans love it.
Thirsty Bear Brewing in SoMa. Although, it is drizzling when I walk out of the hotel, I foolishly decide not to bring my umbrella. Unfortunately, when I emerge from the BART station, the rain is pouring down. I run as quickly as I can to Thirsty Bear, only to discover, upon arriving, that they're closed! A small handwritten note on the door says "Closed for Martin Luther King Day." "Good for them," I grumble to myself, as I run back to the BART station.
I retrieve my umbrella right about the same time the rain completely stops and, once again, ride the bus to Haight Street for a second visit to the still crowded and noisy Toronado, where I knock down a Drakes Russian Imperial Stout and a Russian River Pliny the Elder.
The next morning I check out of the Renoir Hotel, ride the BART for one last time, to the San Francisco Airport and, while waiting for my plane, I enjoy one last San Francisco beer, Anchor Christmas on tap, at 10:00 AM. The only thing better than clam chowder in the morning is beer.
On the plane I realize that I left my shirt
Rogue Ale House
Menage Frog, anyone?
in San Francisco, but I'm not complaining.